It looks as if New York Giants star Plaxico Burress is headed for jail, not for shooting somebody (he shot himself, but isn't pressing charges), and not for carrying an unregistered handgun into a New York nightclub. Heck, he could not have registered that gun even if he had wanted to, since he is a New Jersey resident and New York does not issue permits to out-of-state residents, nor recognize "licensed-to-carry" permits from other states (he does have a Florida permit).
Plaxico Burress is going to jail because the state of New York doesn't trust it's judges, and that steams me.
Several years ago New York state decided to take the "judging" part out of judges hands when it comes to carrying an unregistered firearm by passing a law that gives a mandatory 3.5 year jail sentence for a first offense. Now I don't know if three and a half years is too much, too little, or just right for that particular crime, and I don't really care, that's not the issue. The issue is that if we are going to have judges, it should be up to the judge to judge, on a case by case basis, what an appropriate sentence is. That's why we give them the robe, the high desk, the gavel and all those law books. In England they give them funny wigs. If we aren't going to also let them pass judgment we might as well replace them all with trained parrots. Parrots would be just as effective, and would add some color to otherwise drab courtrooms.
New York state is not alone in short-circuiting the criminal justice system- I'd guess most states have a variety of mandatory sentencing laws these days, and they're all bad ideas. I'm sure it's true that there are some judges who, on occasion, hand out unfairly light sentences, which is what these laws are designed to prevent. But to take the discretion out of the hands of all judges simply because a few make a mistake from time to time is rather like taking a sledgehammer to your television because you don't like American Idol- it's briefly satisfying yet ultimately foolish.
This really has nothing whatsoever to do with Plaxico Burress- the man's an idiot who did a stupid thing and he's damn lucky he's not singing soprano today, after jamming a loaded, un-holstered gun into the waistband of his sweatpants at a crowded club. But is that worth 3.5 years in prison? I don't know, maybe it is and maybe it isn't. I do think that in the case of Plaxico Burress, and in every other case, it should be up to a judge to decide.